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Israelitisch-Theologische Lehranstalt


ISRAELITISCH-THEOLOGISCHE LEHRANSTALT , leading Jewish theological seminary in Vienna. The Israelitisch-Theologische Lehranstalt, founded in 1893, served first the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later its successor states. Although efforts to establish a training school for rabbis and teachers of the Jewish religion can be traced to the days of Emperor Joseph ii (1786), the impetus to a regular theological seminary did not come until the Viennese community had become one of the largest in Europe, 120,000 in 1880. Then a dramatic controversy over the Talmud between an anti-Jewish Prague professor, August *Rohling, and a staunch defender of Jewish rights, Joseph Samuel *Bloch, demonstrated to Jewish philanthropists in Vienna the importance of Jewish cultural efforts against the rising tide of antisemitism. Led by Wilhelm von *Gutmann, several financiers, aided by a few major Jewish communities and a small government subsidy, helped establish the Lehranstalt. Among the benefactors were also such distinguished Jewish scholars as Adolf *Jellinek, Joshua Heschel *Schorr, and Abraham *Epstein.

From the outset the school could boast of a remarkable array of scholarly luminaries on its faculty and a select, if small, student body. Under the leadership of its long-term rector Adolf *Schwarz, its teachers, including David Heinrich *Mueller, Adolf *Buechler, Meir *Friedmann (Ish Shalom), Samuel *Krauss, and Victor *Aptowitzer, trained a total of 324 students, for the most part recruited from Galicia and other parts of the empire. World War i and the dissolution of the empire caused a major financial crisis, which was only partially alleviated by the efforts of the Viennese chief rabbi Hirsch Perez *Chajes, who succeeded in enlisting the aid of U.S. philanthropists. The seminary survived under somewhat reduced circumstances until the annexation of Vienna by Hitler in 1938 and the ensuing destruction of all Jewish cultural institutions. Its precious library was confiscated and the collections are now widely scattered. Its alumni, however, continued to serve in high positions in the rabbinate and schools of higher learning in Europe and the U.S. as well as in Israel.

add. bibliography:

P. Landesmann, Rabbiner aus Wien (1997).

[Salo W. Baron]

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